Last week, the Philadelphia 76ers unveiled an “updated brand identity,” which was probably necessary, considering they’ve won 37 games over the past two seasons combined.
And while the new identity really isn’t all that different from the previous one – unless you’re a stickler for more stars and the “positional rotation” of basketball seams – one of their so-called “secondary” logos was most definitely a departure: A sneering Benjamin Franklin, decked out in his patriotic best, bringing the ball up the court.
Quickly dubbed “Dribbling Ben,” the new logo (which really isn’t all that new; the Sixers used a version of it for the 2002 NBA All-Star Game and once toyed with the idea of incorporating Franklin as a mascot in 2011) became a rather divisive topic of discussion. Some fans loved it; after all, Ben is as much a part of Philly lore as the D.E.N.N.I.S. System, while others were perplexed, rightly pointing out that the game of basketball wasn’t invented until 100 years after Franklin died.
Perhaps all this controversy is unwarranted; a spokesperson for the Sixers told us that Ben “will likely be used primarily for merchandise.” Still, we can’t resist fueling a public debate (it’s basically what our democracy was founded on) so we reached out to some experts – the men who make their living playing Benjamin Franklin – to get their official take on the 76ers’ new look.
Andy Daly, “Benjamin Franklin” on The Office, star of Comedy Central’s Review, returning this summer
I did quite a bit of preparation to play Ben, because I knew that much of The Office was about improvising, so I had to be ready. By the time we shot, I was pretty well-versed in Ben Franklin; one thing I learned was that he considered himself retired at the age of 42, meaning all the things he is known to have accomplished were done before that age – which makes me feel pretty bad about myself.
Looking at the logo, my first thought is that it takes more than a gray wig and a pair of rectangular glasses to make Ben Franklin. This is basically just a drawing of a generic superhero, though I understand the problem the 76ers must have been facing here: they have the competing objectives of creating a character that invokes the Spirit of ’76 while also striking fear in the hearts of defenders when he drives the lane – so maybe they just should have put rectangular glasses on Superman. I honestly think he should be a lumpy, rumpled fellow looking awkwardly at this round object he’s holding.
Rob DeVitis, “The Witty Ben Franklin”
I’m not a big basketball fan, but I’ve been following the Sixers’ logo choices – they’ve been playing with this for a couple years now. This is a very determined Ben; he has more of a sinister look on his face. He’s forcing his way down the court. I like it – especially since it keeps Ben alive in the 21st century. I must say I’m glad they made his coat blue instead of red. Not many people know this, but Ben was six foot tall, 240 pounds. People think he was very short and stocky – can you imagine a lineup of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin at center? Washington was 6-foot-5, Jefferson was over six feet and Ben was over six feet; that’s pretty formidable. Of course, we wouldn’t have John Adams because he’s too short.
Ralph Archbold, “Official Benjamin Franklin of the Constitutional Bicentennial”
I started doing this 42 years ago, and I live in Philadelphia, love the Sixers, the Eagles, the Phillies – so I’m quite excited about it. I think it’s good to have this kind of logo; most sports teams have an animal! I love the expression on the face, like Ben’s picturing King George as he’s coming down the court, and those sneakers look much more comfortable than his normal walking shoes. He’s wearing a different style of glasses – in his early years, he wore more rectangular reading glasses, so this is more like a middle-aged Ben Franklin. I love the colors, I love the aggressiveness in his face. If Ben played in today’s NBA, I see him shooting a lot of 3-pointers, and he’d help provide leadership for our young team; he’d teach them about diligence, energy and inventiveness.
Robert Lindsey, “The Polymath Benjamin Franklin”
I play many historical characters – I’ve been doing this for 25 years, but Ben’s only been part of it for four or five. People love him; and I think the logo is terrific. It’s amazing. There he is, with that driving spirit, he’s focused – on the run, moving, and Ben was always moving in real life. He was such a multifaceted person. I also like frock jacket and the breeches, he’s a little muscular in his arms, which fits, because he was an avid swimmer, and when he was in the print shop he would carry these heavy trays of lead type. If he were in today’s NBA, I think he’d strategize – he’d have game plans, he’d take over for the coach. He also enjoyed games of various kinds, so he’d probably be interested in all sports, probably experimenting with bats and footballs. He was a Patriot, after all.